Daily Current Affairs : 14th and 15th August 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Transparent Taxation : Honouring the Honest
  2. Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO)
  3. Economic aid package for Maldives
  4. Abraham Accord
  5. Reverse Charge Mechanism
  6. Turkey Greece Issue
  7. RBI Transfer
  8. Contempt of Court Verdict
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . Transparent Taxation – Honouring the Honest

Context: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched a new platform  “Transparent Taxation – Honouring the Honest” to ease the compliance burden for assessees and reward the “honest taxpayer”.

About the Platform

  • The platform has been launched to meet the requirements of the 21st-century taxation system.
  • The platform is in line with other initiatives of the government of  “Banking the Unbanked, Securing the Unsecured and Funding the Unfunded”

Features of the Platform

  • The platform has major reforms like Faceless Assessment, Faceless Appeal and Taxpayers Charter.
  • The Faceless Assessment and Taxpayers Charter have come into force while the facility of faceless appeal will be available for citizens across the country from 25th September i.e. Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s birth anniversary.

Faceless Assessment & Appeal

  • There was already in existence, a form of faceless assessment scheme called, “e-assessment scheme” which was introduced through budget announcements of 2019. E-assessment was supposed to be a faceless process for assessment without there being any human interface.
  • Faceless scheme is the old e-assessment scheme already in existence withmodifications.
  • Under the faceless scheme of assessment selection of the cases for scrutiny of the cases is supposed to be devoid of any human intervention. It will be done randomly and under an automated process.
  • The faceless system of assessment will not apply to a certain category of cases like black money and benami property matters, international taxation cases, serious fraud cases and tax evasion cases. All the cases covered under income tax raids will also be outside purview the faceless assessment scheme.
  • The selection of cases and communication is proposed to be centralised. The selection of the cases will be done with the help of algorithms put in place on the criteria applied through data analytics and artificial intelligence. Excluding the role of the human in the selection of cases for scrutiny will help remove individual bias as well as individual discretion of a particular assessing officer. This will result in altogether extinction of corruption practices involved in the selection of the cases.
  • On the other part, the assessment process though not fully automated but will be system driven under which all the communication will be centralised. All the communication will be sent by central assessment centre the way the processing of the ITR and handling of TDS matter is done by CPS, Bangalore and TRACES respectively. The issue of notices and sending of final assessment order will be done through the central unit.
  • Under the new assessment scheme, the taxpayer and the tax official will not have any direct human interface. The entire assessment process will be divided into various units. So the draft assessment will be done by one unit. The same would be reviewed by another unit and the final assessment will be done by different units. The allocation of cases to various units will also be automated under the faceless scheme of assessment. It is also proposed that the particular task comprised in the assessment process will be allocated to different teams located at different places geographically. This will create an anonymous system where the taxpayer does not know who the tax assessing officer is as the function of assessment will be performed by various units and that too in the form of the team and not an individual.  
  • Faceless Appeal means that appeals will be randomly allotted to any officer in the country. The identity of the officer deciding the appeal will remain unknown.

Tax payer’s Charter

  • The tax charter issued by the government defines the rights and obligation in very general term.
  • The concept of tax payer’s charter can be seen like the concept of directive principles enshrined in our constitution.

Significance of the Platform

  • The platform is aimed at boosting the confidence of the taxpayer and making him/her fearless.
  • It is aimed at making the tax system Seamless, Painless, Faceless.
    • The Seamless system works to resolve the problems of a taxpayer instead of entangling him further.
    • Painless means that everything from technology to rules should be simple.
    • The faceless system means that there is no need for direct contact between the Taxpayer and the Income Tax Officer in all matters of scrutiny, notice, survey or assessment.
  • The platform ensures the taxpayer is now assured of fair, courteous and rational behaviour.
  • The charter takes care of maintaining the dignity and sensitivity of the taxpayer and that is based on a trust factor and that the assessee cannot be merely doubted without a basis.
  • The platform is in line with the Government’s resolve to provide maximum governance with minimum government.
  • It will help in improving India’s rank in the Ease of Doing Business.
  • It will increase the confidence of foreign investors. The arrival of record FDI in India even during this crisis of Corona is an example of this.

Impact of faceless assessment & Tax charter

  • Faceless assessment : Due to automation in the selection of cases, the discretionary power of the officer to select some of the cases will go away and so will the corruption inbuilt in it. Moreover, due to the assessment process being divided into various parts and each unit supposed to work as a team during the process of assessment, the component of corruption in the system will be minimised though it cannot be altogether ruled out. This is because though the taxpayer would not know who is his assessing officers but the persons involved in any team at any stage of assessment will certainly know fully about the taxpayer. So the possibility of the taxpayers being approached by any team members of the team of any of the unit involved in assessment cannot be ruled out.
  • Though it will minimise corruption from the system it will cause undue hardship to the taxpayer in the form of having to scan and upload tons of documents. Submission of physical documents is far easier than having to scan and upload tons of documents. Moreover, every taxpayer may not have the well-equipped system to carry out such tasks.
  • Tax Charter : As directive principles are not enforceable like fundamental right and have not been fully implemented even after 70 years of the constitution coming into force. So is the case with taxpayers’ rights enumerated in the taxpayers’ charter. It will not have any significant impact unless the same is made part of the respective tax legislation and made enforceable under the law. So the new Tax payers’ charter is not going to change the life of taxpayers significantly in any way.  Unless the charter is made legally binding it will remain only ornamental piece for display. As per my experience earlier tax payer’s charters were followed more in contravention than in compliance.

2 . Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO)

Context: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has recently launched the Indian  Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO)


  • The launch of NIIO is in consonance with the Draft Defence Acquisition Policy 2020 (DAP 20) which envisages the Service Headquarters establishing an Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation within existing resources.

About Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO)

  • NIIO puts in place dedicated structures for the end users to interact with academia and industry towards fostering innovation and indigenisation for self-reliance in defence in keeping with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat
  • The NIIO is a three-tiered organisation.
    • Naval Technology Acceleration Council (N-TAC) will bring together the twin aspects of innovation and indigenisation and provide apex level directives,
    • A working group under the N-TAC will implement the projects,
    • A Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC) has also been created for induction of emerging disruptive technology in an accelerated time frame.

Significance of NIIO

  • The NIIO will help in fostering innovation and indigenisation for self-reliance in defence in keeping with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Other initiatives (Prelims)

  • The Navy has also signed Memorandums Of Understanding (MoUs) with Uttar Pradesh Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), Raksha Shakti University (RSU), Gujarat, Maker Village, Kochi and Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).
    • Maker Village is a unique incubator which provides everything necessary for a hardware startup to innovate, design, and build a product.
    • The SIDM is the apex body of the Indian defence industry with a role as an advocate, catalyst, and facilitator for the growth and capability building of the defence industry in India.
  • A compendium of Indian Navy’s Indigenisation perspective plans titled ‘SWAVLAMBAN’ was also released

3 . Economic aid package for Maldives

Context: India announced a $ 500 million package for the Maldives.

About the news

  • India announced a slew of new connectivity measures for the Maldives, including air, sea, intra-island and telecommunications in an effort to help the Indian Ocean Islands deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • India’s total financial commitment in the Maldives is more than $2 billion, with all loan and grant projects being announced after President Ibrahim Solih came to power in November 2018 and put in place his “India first” policy

Greater Male Connectivity Project

  • India has announced a grant of $100 million and a new line of credit for $400 million.
  • The GMCP will connect Male with the islands of Villingili, Gulhifahu, where a port is being built under an Indian line of credit, and Thilafushi, where a new industrial zone is coming up.
  • Male and the islands will be linked by a bridge-and-causeway link spanning 6.7km
  • Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) will be the largest civilian infrastructure project in the Maldives
  • Significance of GMCP
    • It will help in demonstrating India’s overarching presence in the region.
    • It will streamline connectivity between the four islands, thereby boosting economic activity, generating employment and promoting holistic urban development in the Male region
    • Once completed the project will easily overshadow the 1.39-km Maldives-China Friendship Bridge, currently the most visible infrastructure project in Male

A new cargo ferry service

  • A direct cargo ferry service will begin shortly to enhance trade and connectivity and boost the economic partnership.
  • The cargo service will provide predictability in supplies for importers in Maldives and exporters in India and reduce logistics costs and times

An air travel bubble

  • An air travel bubble between India and the Maldives will be created to facilitate the movement of people from both sides for employment, tourism and medical emergencies.
  • Maldives is the first neighbouring country with which an air bubble is being operationalised.
  • The air bubble symbolises India’s support to shore up tourism arrivals and revenues in the Maldives

Covid-19-related assistance

  • India has announced $250 million as budgetary support to help the Indian Ocean archipelago cope with the Covid-19 crisis.
  • The Maldives has been the largest beneficiary of India’s Covid-19-related assistance among neighbours.
  • India supplied essential food and construction materials to the Maldives, including 580 tonnes of food items gifted in May.

Submarine Communication Cable

  • The Submarine Communication Cable between Maldives and India had become outdated and would be renewed by the end of 2020.
  • The cable length is at 840 kilometres and will be laid at a depth of 3,700 metres underwater.
  • It is expected to significantly improve bandwidth locally and internationally, strengthening network connectivity across Maldives.

Other initiatives

  • India has also decided to renew quotas for supplying essential commodities, such as potatoes, onions, rice, wheat, flour, sugar, dal, eggs, and river sand and stone aggregates, to the Maldives for 2020-21.
  • The quotas will assure food security and the supply of essential construction items, and provide certainty and price stability for these goods in the Maldives.

4 . Abraham Accord

Context : US President Donald Trump had helped broker the accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, known as the Abraham Accord


  • Israel had signed peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
  • UAE, along with most other Arab nations, did not recognise Israel and had no formal formal diplomatic or economic relations with it until now.

Abraham Accord

  • According to the Abraham Accord the UAE will establish diplomatic relations with Israel in return for President Binyamin Netanyahu committing to give up a stated plan to annex the West Bank, the main territory of a state that the Palestinians want.
  • The UAE becomes the third Arab nation to recognise Israel after Egypt (in 1979) and Jordan (1994).
  • According to the White House statement, delegations from the two countries will meet to set in motion bilateral ties in investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, tech, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, etc.
  • On priority, Israel and UAE will work together to find a treatment and a vaccine for Covid-19.


  • This move is significant because with the exception of Jordan and Egypt, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states owing to its long-standing conflict with Palestinians. Israel had signed peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994. However, despite the absence of official diplomatic relations, Israel has been engaging with its neighbours with regard to issues like trade.
  • The agreement comes after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to suspend plans to annex parts of the West Bank, one that had been bitterly criticised by these Gulf Arab states, Europe and a few other countries around the world.
  • The deal promises both symbolic and tangible benefits for the UAE, positioning the country as a diplomatic leader in the region. If others follow suit in establishing formal relations with Israel, the UAE can say it was the catalyst. More immediately, it could mean an influx of Israeli tourists and money, as well as collaboration on medical and other research with a regional economic power as both countries fight the pandemic.
  • The agreement will lead to full normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two states, a move that reshapes the order of West Asia politics from the Palestinian issue to Iran. It also firms up opposition to regional power Iran, which the UAE, Israel and the US view as the main threat in the region.

Palestinian stand on the issue

  • President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, which seeks a two-state solution, lashed out against the deal as a “betrayal” by the UAE. He has been disengaged from the Trump administration for the last two years for its pro-Israel stand. “The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising, announcement,” a senior adviser to Abbas said. It was a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause,” he said.
  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “This agreement does absolutely not serve the Palestinian cause, it rather serves the Zionist narrative. This agreement encourages the occupation (Israel) to continue its denial of the rights of our Palestinian people, and even to continue its crimes against our people,”
  • Palestinian groups, particularly members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), took to social media platforms to criticise the agreement, and particularly express their anger at the UAE, that they believe has harmed the Palestinian cause.

India’s Stand

  • India “has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia which is its extended neighbourbood.” “In that context India welcomed the full normalization of ties between the UAE and Israel.
  • Both nations are strategic partners of India

Way forward for India

  • India should use this unexpected opportunity to give itself a bigger role in a region which is its strategic backyard.
  • The first step should be to ramp up defence and security relations with UAE. Israel is already a very close defence partner. But India should restart joint exercises with UAE, and even Saudi Arabia.
  • While some work has already happened, India should leverage its economy for a bigger opening in this region.
  • Importantly, India can use its good offices to ensure that any future deal on a regional security framework gives adequate space to Iran, which may be weak but not so weak that it cannot be a hugely disruptive power if it so chooses. And a balance between Shia and Sunni, between Persian and Arab, is key to any sustainable peace.
  • In recent years, China has indicated its willingness to play a larger role in this region, and is close to both UAE and Israel and, increasingly, Saudi Arabia. India should make its moves before this market and this extended neighbourhood come under the Chinese sphere of influence.

5 . Reverse Charge Mechanism

Context: A panel of State Finance Ministers have agreed to levy 3% GST on sale of old gold and jewellery under reverse charge mechanism (RCM).

What is Reverse Charge Mechanism?

  • RCM or Reverse Charge Mechanism under GST is a mechanism where the supplier & the recipient change their roles in paying the GST.
  • In the normal system, the recipient pays the GST to the Supplier who then pays it to the Government but under Reverse Charge, the recipient pays the GST directly to the Government & not via the Supplier.
  • This Mechanism is applicable to certain situations, goods & services specified by the Government.

What is Reverse Charge in GST?

  • Reverse Charge in GST is the amount of GST that the recipient has to pay directly to the Government & not through the supplier, because such situations, goods or services were specified by the Government to fall under the Reverse Charge Mechanism.

Other measures

  • The Group of Ministers (GoM) have also decided to implement the e-way bill system for the transportation of gold within a State.
  • Significance : The move will help in keeping a check on tax evasion as most smuggled gold is sold as old jewellery to evade GST.

6 . Turkey- Greece issue

Context: Turkey and Greece neighbours have seen frequent flare-ups. The latest spat is over gas reserves and maritime rights and it has prompted fears that tensions could escalate further.

About the news

  • NATO allies Turkey and Greece have locked horns in the recent past- first after Turkey converted the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, and then over the rights of exploration of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Relations between the two nations have seen a marked downturn this year. In February, Turkey had allowed thousands of migrants to cross the border into Greece and the European Union, irking the latter.


  • For centuries, Turkey and Greece have shared a chequered history.
  • Greece won independence from modern Turkey’s precursor, the Ottoman Empire, in 1830.
  • In 1923, the two countries exchanged their Muslim and Christian populations – a migration whose scale has only been surpassed in history by the Partition of India.
  • The two nations continue to oppose each other on the decades-old Cyprus conflict, and on two occasions have almost gone to war over exploration rights in the Aegean Sea.
  • Both countries are, however, part of the 30-member NATO alliance, and Turkey is officially a candidate for full membership of the European Union, of which Greece is a constituent.

The Hagia Sophia row

  • The centuries-old Hagia Sophia, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, was originally a cathedral in the Byzantine Empire before it was turned into a mosque in 1453, when Constantinople fell to Sultan Mehmet II’s Ottoman forces.
  • In the 1930s, however, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, shut down the mosque and turned it into a museum in an attempt to make the country more secular.
  • Many Greeks continue to revere the Hagia Sophia, and view it as a key part of Orthodox Christianity. So, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the structure open to Muslim worship last month, tensions escalated.
  • On July 24, when Friday prayers were held at the Hagia Sophia for the first time in 90 years, church bells tolled across Greece in protest. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the site’s conversion an “affront to civilisation of the 21st century”, describing Turkey’s move as a “proof of weakness”.
  • A day later, Turkey’s foreign ministry hit back, saying, “Greece showed once again its enmity towards Islam and Turkey with the excuse of reacting to Hagia Sophia Mosque being opened to prayers”.

How have relations soured?

  • Turkey and Greece have competing ambitions over gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Both have laid claim to overlapping areas, arguing they belong to their respective continental shelves.
  • In July, Turkey put out a naval alert – known as a Navtex – that it was sending its Oruc Reis research ship to carry out a drilling survey in waters close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo which is at a short distance from the coast of south-west Turkey.
  • The survey alert covered an area between Cyprus and Crete.
  • The alert prompted alarm in the Greek military, and fears of a clash near Kastellorizo.
  • But after German intervention, a commitment to dialogue and calm was apparently restored.
  • But then in early August Greece signed a deal with Egypt to set up a maritime zone that infuriated Turkey. The talks were called off and the Oruc Reis left port on 10 August. By late the next day the Oruc Reis was reported to be sailing in waters between Crete and Cyprus.

Why the flare-up?

  • Turkey and Greece are on separate sides in a race to develop energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. In recent years, huge gas reserves have been found in the waters off Cyprus, prompting the Cypriot government, Greece, Israel and Egypt to work together to make the most of the resources. As part of that agreement, energy supplies would go to Europe via a 2,000km (1,200-mile) pipeline in the Med.
  • In 2019 Turkey stepped up drilling to the west of Cyprus, which has been divided since 1974, with Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus only recognised as a republic by Ankara.
  • Turkey has always argued that the island’s natural resources should be shared. Then, in November 2019, Ankara signed a deal with Libya that Turkey said created an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from the Turkish southern coast to Libya’s north-east coast.
  • Egypt said it was illegal, and Greece said it was absurd as it failed to take account of the Greek island of Crete, midway between the two countries. At the end of May 2020, Turkey said it planned to start drilling in the coming months in several other areas further west, alarming EU members Greece and Cyprus.
  • Several licences have already been issued to Turkish Petroleum to drill in the Eastern Med, including off the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete.
  • Turkey states that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus cannot be excluded from the energy equation in the region.
  • On 6 August, Greece and Egypt hit back with a deal of their own, forming an exclusive economic zone that according to Greece would cancel out the Turkish agreement with Libya.

What are the legal issues?

  • Many Greek islands in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean are within sight of the Turkish coast, so issues of territorial waters are complex and the two countries have come to the brink of war in the past.
  • If Greece were to extend its territorial waters from six miles to the maximum of 12 allowed internationally, Turkey argues its sea routes would be severely affected. There are exclusive economic zones (EEZs) too, like that agreed between Turkey and Libya, but also like the Cypriot EEZ accords with Lebanon, Egypt and Israel. And this latest row involves continental shelves, which can stretch up to 200 miles from the shore.
  • Greece argues that the Turkish survey ship that set sail from Antalya is encroaching on its continental shelf, pointing to a large area off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, 2km from the Turkish mainland.
  • While Athens has called on Turkey to leave its continental shelf immediately, Turkey insisted last month that “islands that are far from the mainland and closer to Turkey cannot have a continental shelf”.

What reaction has there been?

  • Greece’s European allies have largely backed its position, although the EU and Germany are pushing for dialogue.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has given Cyprus and Greece his full backing, condemning Turkey’s “violations of their sovereignty”.
  • As tensions escalated, France has temporarily deployed a frigate and two Rafale fighter jets in the area for joint naval manoeuvres with Greece.
  • The US has called for the two sides to talk and Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called for the situation to be “resolved in a spirit of Allied solidarity and in accordance with international law”.
  • Germany’s Angela Merkel is seen as key to taking the heat out of the crisis and has talked to the leaders of both Turkey and Greece.

7 . Surplus transfer by RBI

Context: The board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has approved the transfer of ₹57,128 crore as surplus to the government for the accounting year 2019-20, while deciding to maintain the Contingency Risk Buffer at 5.5%.

About the news

  • Last year, the central bank had transferred ₹1.76 lakh crore, which included ₹1.23 lakh crore as dividend and ₹52,637 crore of excess provisions.
  • This year transfer will be of ₹57,128 crore as surplus to the government for the accounting year 2019-20, while deciding to maintain the Contingency Risk Buffer at 5.5%.
  •  In the current year, the RBI will have a nine-month financial year, ending in March.
  • The RBI’s payout will partly bolster the Centre’s pandemic-hit finances but it will not help bridge a huge shortfall in receipts as both tax revenue and capital proceeds from planned disinvestments are set to suffer setbacks with the economy poised to shrink this fiscal in the wake of the national and regional lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

How does RBI builds its Reserves

  • First Source – RBI earns income from : –
    • Interest on government bonds held for conducting open market operations
    • Fees from government’s market borrowing programme
    • Income from investment in foreign currency assets.
  • Second source is earnings retained after giving dividends to government.
  • Third source is revaluation of foreign assets and gold 

Why does a central bank need capital?

  • Central banks that have foreign assets need capital to absorb potential losses.The RBI’s foreign assets are worth Rs 26.4 lakh crore, up from 23.7 lakh crore in FY17.
  • RBI needs capital to shield the economy from monetary and financial shocks.
  • In case of unstable governments, monetary authorities carry a bigger burden. A Central bank would need more capital in such a situation.
  • Central bank needs reserves to perform functions such as price and exchange stability.
  • Reserves give independence to a central bank. Low capital will force central bank to turn to government in time of need. This will give government influence over the central bank. 

Jalan panel 

  • The RBI had formed a committee chaired by former Governor Bimal Jalan in 2019 to review its economic capital framework and suggest the quantum of excess provision to be transferred to the government.
  • The committee was formed after a demand from the government for more money. The RBI Board has accepted all the recommendations of the Jalan committee. 
  • “The committee’s recommendations were guided by the fact that the RBI forms the primary bulwark for monetary, financial and external stability,” the central bank said in a statement.


  • The panel recommended a clear distinction between the two components of economic capital – realized equity and revaluation balances.
  • It was recommended that realized equity could be used for meeting all risks/ losses as they were primarily built up from retained earnings, while revaluation balances could be reckoned only as risk buffers against market risks as they represented unrealized valuation gains and hence were not distributable. 
  • The committee also recognised that RBI’s provisioning for monetary, financial and external stability risks is the country’s savings for a ‘rainy day’,  (a monetary or financial stability crisis), which has been consciously maintained with the RBI in view of its role as the Monetary Authority and the Lender of Last Resort.
  • “This risk provisioning made primarily from retained earnings is cumulatively referred to as the Contingent Risk Buffer (CRB) and has been recommended to be maintained within a range of 6.5% to 5.5% of the RBI’s balance sheet
  • “This CRB comprising 5.5 to 4.5% for monetary and financial stability risks and 1.0% for credit and operational risks
  • The ‘Surplus Distribution Policy’, as recommended by the committee, says only if realized equity is above its requirement, the entire net income will be transferable to the Government. 

8 . Contempt of Court Verdict

Context : a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra found two tweets by lawyer Prashant Bhushan amounting to “serious contempt of court”

About the Case

  • One of his tweets was about the role of the last four Chief Justices of India, and the other about the current CJI riding an expensive motorcycle while the court was in “lockdown”. While Bhushan later expressed some regret, the Bench held that the latter tweet was not against the CJI in his individual capacity but as the head of the judiciary
  • The Bench took exception to the “lockdown” remark and said that from March 23 to August 4, its various Benches had 879 sittings and heard 12,748 matters. It noted that Bhushan himself not only appeared as a lawyer during this period but also challenged the FIR against him. The court refused to accept his tweet as written out of anguish.
  • As to the other tweet, the court held it tends to give an impression that the highest constitutional court of the country has in the last six years played a vital role in the destruction of Indian democracy. “There is no matter of doubt, that the tweet tends to shake the public confidence in the institution of judiciary… the said tweet undermines the dignity and authority of the institution of the Supreme Court of India and the CJI and directly affronts the majesty of law,” it Bench said. The key word ‘vital’ was not in the original tweet, but is mentioned in Para 71 of the judgment.
  • It rejected the argument that the tweet was only a matter of opinion, although several experts including former Supreme Court judges have said or written similar things. On January 11, 2018, the four then senior-most judges of the Supreme Court had held a press conference to say that the “credibility of the highest judiciary is at stake”. They asserted that democracy would not survive as an independent judiciary is the hallmark of successful democracy. The Supreme Court had tolerated such a strong indictment of itself, and then CJI Justice Dipak Mishra. Now, it has chosen not to ignore tweets by a lawyer-activist. It said magnanimity cannot be stretched to such an extent that may amount to weakness in dealing with a malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack on the very foundation of the institution of judiciary and thereby damaging the very foundation of the democracy.

What were the court’s key arguments?

  • ACTUAL INTERFERENCE: It rejected the argument that the tweet has not really interfered with administration of justice. It relied on Brahma Prakash Sharma (1953) in which a Constitution Bench had held that it is not necessary to prove affirmatively that there has been actual interference with the administration of justice, and it is enough if a defamatory statement is likely, or tends in any way, to interfere with the proper administration of justice. The Bench also relied on C K Daphtary (1971) in which the court had held that “we are unable to agree with him that a scurrilous attack on a judge in respect of a judgment or past conduct has no adverse effect on the due administration of justice. This sort of attack in a country like ours has the inevitable effect of undermining the confidence of the public in the judiciary”.
  • SCANDALISING OF COURT: The Bench cited Baradakanta Mishra (1974) in which the court had held that scandalising of the court is a species of contempt, and a common form is vilification of the judge. The question the court has to ask is whether the vilification is of the judge as a judge, or as an individual. If the latter, the judge is left to his private remedies, and the court has no power to commit for contempt. On Friday, the Bench held that fair criticism of judges, if made in good faith in public interest, is not contempt. How to ascertain the good faith is the million-dollar question. The Bench said that for ascertaining good faith and the public interest, the courts have to see all the surrounding circumstances including the person responsible for comments, his knowledge in the field, and the intended purpose.

Criminal Contempt

  • Criminal contempt under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 means any publication which (i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court; or (ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceedings, or (iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner. In 2006, government brought in an amendment, which now provides “truth” as defence provided it is bona fide and in public interest.
  • The expression “scandalising the court” has not been defined.

9 . Facts for Prelims

African Swine Fever

  • According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, ASF is an extremely contagious viral disease affecting wild and domestic pigs.
  • It swiftly crosses national borders, spreading through live or dead bodies, even through packaged pork products.
  • Recently African swine fever (ASF) had spread to Meghalaya; more than 17,000 pigs have died due to the highly-contagious disease. Piggery is a major source livelihood in the northeast because of the high demand for pork. Assam alone has seven lakh pig farmers engaged in the business, worth at least ₹8,000 crore annually.

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